Naked, but not ashamed.

This disturbing warning was picked up by the Mercury from another publication.  Whether the sinister gentleman campaigning about naked ladies actually existed, of course, is a another matter .  .  .

“The following curious communication from a correspondent under the signature “OBSERVATOR,” appears in the Courier of Wednesday:

An Important Caution. – Ladies who are accustomed to wear their dresses extremely low in the back and bosom, or off the shoulders, are particularly requested to beware a person, who has for some time frequented all places of public amusement, and many private parties.  He is an elderly gentleman, of venerable appearance, and correct manners; his constant practice when he observes a lady dressed in the manner above described is, with an almost imperceptible, and apparently accidental pressure of a little instrument which he carries in his hand, to imprint the following words upon her back or shoulders, ‘Naked, but not ashamed.’

The stain is like that produced by lunar caustic*; washing will not remove it, and it becomes more visible by exposure to the air, so that nothing but a covering can conceal it.  It is said that several ladies were marked last summer at various places of fashionable resort; and that they cannot, even now, strip for company, without displaying this indelible stamp of reproof.'”

Stamford Mercury 12th July, 1816.

*Lunar caustic is silver nitrate, which was used as a cauterizing agent.  It stains skin jet black on exposure to light.

Longevity in Lincolnshire

Apart from their wonderfully evocative names, this piece celebrates the incredible longevity of the monks of Croyland abbey.

“When the famous Turkerul, who had been Chancellor of England, and one of the greatest warriors and statesmen of the time, retired from the world and became abbot of Croyland, he found five very aged monks in the monastery, to whom he paid particular attention.  Father Clarenbald, the oldest of these monks, died A.D. 973, after he had completed the 168th year of his age.  The second who was named Swarling, died the same year, at the age of 142.  The third, who was called Father Turgar, died the year after, in the 115th year of his age.  The two other monks, Brnne and Ajo, died about the same time, whose ages are not exactly known. though they must have been very old, as they both remembered the old abbey of Croyland, which had been destroyed by the Danes in the year 870.  These facts are related with much confidence by Ingulphus, who was abbot of Croyland, and wrote from the historical register of the abbey.  When we recollect also the very recent instance of longevity in Elizabeth Shaw’s case, who died at Keal Cotes, aged 117, the Lincolnshire fens are not to be considered so unhealthy as they have been generally reputed.”

Stamford Mercury 30th June, 1809.

Postal Improvements

In our days of instant communication, it might appear odd that over a century ago, the Royal Mail was very much NOT ‘snail mail’!

“Commencing on Monday next, 6th inst., there will be on week-days four deliveries of letters and parcels throughout the town instead of three only as hitherto, these will be made at 7.0 and 10.0 a.m., and at 3.0 and 8.0 p.m. A great advantage will be gained inasmuch as the letters now delivered at 12 will be received two hours earlier, and four-fifths of those formerly delivered at 7.0 p.m. will, under the new arrangement, be dealt with at 3.0 p.m. and the delivery at 8.0 p.m. will include all letters posted in the afternoon in the Rural districts served by Stamford, such letters have in the past been delayed until the following morning.  It is estimated that not less than 6000 letters a week will be appreciably accelerated.  The collections also from the various town boxes will be made more frequently, and will fit in more closely with the different despatches from the Head Office.  The first collection will be made between 4.30 and 5.30 a.m., and correspondence will fall into the morning delivery in the Stamford Town and Rural districts an the first despatches to Peterborough and London.”

Stamford Mercury, 3rd April, 1908.

Dumb Insolence.

Stories of people being suddenly struck dumb by divine intervention were not as uncommon as this piece suggests, but here it is used as a salutary lesson for blasphemers.

“An awful instance of divine correction, of a nature which cannot fail to be admonitorily applied by all who hear of it, was experienced by a young man in this town on Monday last.  Whilst giving reins to a vehemence of passion, and impiously uttering the most blasphemous expressions, he was, by visitation of Providence, suddenly struck dumb!  Under this affliction, and in a state of mind, from remorse and contrition, the most deplorable, the unhappy young man, has remained ever since his intemperate and wicked behaviour and the infliction of this signal mark of divine displeasure.  Amongst the light and incongruous materials of a newspaper, relations of a tenor so solemn as this so rarely occur, that we hope it will make a lasting and useful impression upon the profane, whether from principle or inadvertency.”

Stamford Mercury, 14th June, 1805.

Two Items from the London News

London news was generally serious items from Parliament and the Court, but, just as today we have ‘and finally’ items in news broadcasts, there were often amusing snippets reported at the end:

“A few days since, a gentleman very gravely wrote to another – ‘Sir, you have deprived me of the very best friend I had on my back.”  Upon examination, it appeared that the latter had neglected to return a borrowed Great Coat.

“A woman, lately brought before a Country Magistrate, and behaving with much confidence, was told by his worship that she had brass enough in her face to make a five-gallon kettle.  ‘Yes,’ answered she, ‘and there is sap enough in your head to fill it!’ ”

Stamford Mercury 2nd December, 1808.

Parliamentary Reform to Save the Poor

Sometimes, it took the power of an imagined exchange to get the message across to political animals keen on parliamentary reform, that there was genuine distress in the real world.  This letter is rather wordy, but the dialogue at the end says it all.

“Sir,

Our violent political Orators, it seems, have again recourse to the old worn-out subject of a Reform in Parliament, as the universal Medicine, the grand Panacea, for all the Disorders of the State.  In this they resemble their Brother Quacks in Medicine.  The Pill that is to cure all the diseases of the human body, and the Reform that is to remedy off the defects of the body politic may, from their resemblance, be fairly traced to one common origin.  These experimental Doctors tell us, that nothing is wanting to remedy all the distress of trade, manufactures, and agriculture, but a Reform of Parliament; yet there is no agreement amongst them as to any specific or tangible pain.  If it were true that such Reform would instantly set all the looms in Spital-fields to work, revive the manufactures of Birmingham, Manchester, &c, or supersede the necessity of poor-rates, every individual would then clamour for it, whether he understood it or not.  At the same time, however, that these disinterested Patriots recommend the adoption of a remedy, which from the slowness of its operation can have but little effect on the present existing distress, they seem to despise the mode of relief, now generally practised, by money, food, cloathing, and employment.  Indeed, why should they put down their names to a charitable subscription, when their own proposed remedy is so much cheaper, and may be administered gratis, as it costs them nothing?  Now, Sir, conceive the following appropriate and certainly very instructive dialogue taking place between one of these politico-patriotic Doctors and a poor broken-down Spital-fields weaver.

‘Doctor, I am almost famished – ‘  ‘My good friend, you want a reform in Parliament.’

‘I have had no work for a month past – ‘ ‘You must get rid of the rotten boroughs.’

‘My wife lies in her seventh child – ‘  ‘Annual Parliaments will soon cure that.’

‘My children are destitute of cloathes and food – ‘  ‘They are not sufficiently represented.’

‘A little supply for present food would be – ‘  ‘Fool!  you’ll only be as hungry to-morrow.’

‘These is little chance of my poor wife recovering – ‘  ‘All owing to the interference of Peers in elections.’

‘A good lady has offered to send us some soup – ‘  ‘Old Sarum sends two members.’

‘A very little money would relieve us – ‘  ‘All in vain, while we have such a House of Commons as the present.’

‘The smallest donation would be acceptable – ‘  ‘I have given my penny to Lord Cochrane’s subscription.’

Your’s, AN OLD CORRESPONDENT.”

Stamford Mercury Jan. 1st, 1817.

 

The Value of Money

A delightful regency episode observed at a society card game.  20 guineas was a large amount of money and its equivalent in gold would have weighed 166 g (about 6 oz.).

“At a fashionable whist party, a few evenings since, considerable merriment was excited by the following repartee:

“A lady, having won a rubber of 20 guineas, the gentleman who was her opponent pulled out his pocket-book and tendered 21l in bank notes.  The fair gamester observed, with a disdainful toss of her head, ‘in the great houses which I frequent, Sir, we always use gold.’ – ‘That may be, Madam,’ replied the gentleman, ‘but in the little houses which I frequent we always use paper.'”

Stamford Mercury 28th November, 1806.

How to Cook a Potatoe

It is hard for us to imagine cooking potatoes for over one hour, but kitchen equipment was much less efficient in the 19th century and who knows what varieties of potato there were?  The Mercury clearly felt the need to explain this recipe in detail, despite the fact that potatoes had been in Britain for over 230 years.

“When washed or brushed clean, put them in the tin, iron, or earthen pot, and afterwards pour or pump in cold water to nearly cover them; they give out much liquid in boiling.  If the potatoes be well sized, as soon as they simmer, or begin to boil, throw in some cold water, and if the root be large, repeat this till the potatoes be boiled to the core, which will take, according to their size from 30 minutes to an hour and a quarter.  Without this care, they will crack and break before they are boiled through.  To throw in a little salt while boiling is an improvement, and practised in Ireland; but with us salt is too dear for this use generally.  To boil them slowly is the proper manner; when boiled, pour off the water, and put them again on, or by the fire, with the cover off, to evaporate the moisture; this makes them dry, floury, or mealy, and exquisite; they should be brought to table in their skins, in a cloth or damask napkin, and used at dinner as bread; at well furnished tables, a separate small potatoe plate is a neat and convenient addition.”

Stamford Mercury 3rd January, 1817.

A Rocky Marriage?

An amusing account of a wedding journey in Sussex shows the extent of the Mercury’s news-gathering.  Note the use of the long ‘s’.

“Last week a very extraordinary Wedding was celebrated at Maerfield in Sussex, where the Ages of the Bride, Bridegroom, and the Horse they rode upon to be married; amounted to 214 Years, the Man was 96, the Woman 94, and the Horse 24.  As they did not care to be married where they were known, they set out, secretly for a Church at some Distance from their Habitation, and in their way thither, the Bridegroom fell off his Horse, but by the help of a friendly Gate, made shift to mount again.  As they were coming back, the Bride had the Misfortune to slip off the Pilion behind, and the Bridegroom’s Senses not being very perfect, he never miss’d her till he had jogg’d on some Miles, and was at last forced to return, with Assistance, to bring her home.”

Stamford Mercury 2 September, 1736.

The Emperor’s Propaganda

This item picked by the Mercury from the Journal de Paris is a fine example of Napoleon Buonaparte’s propaganda machine.  It was not for another fifty years that England began to move its town-centre church graveyards to purpose built cemeteries on the outskirts of settlements, owing to fears of cholera and itinerant tramps.

“The King of Spain has followed the examples of all other enlightened sovereigns.  No persons can in future be buried in churches in Spain, and all church-yards are in future to be at some distance from cities, towns, or villages.  England is now the only country in Europe, where the barbarous usage still continues of burying persons in churches and in church-yards, situate in the middle of the most populous streets, and where the dead have the privilege to infect and poison the living.  This is another evidence of the vilisation* of the nation of boxing shop-keepers.”

Stamford Mercury 24 August, 1804.

*presumably this is a ‘dig’ at our ci-vilisation!